Nov 28, 2012

Transcript of Interview – ABC 24 with Michael Rowland

Issues: Parliament; Liberals’ smear campaign; Julie Bishop’s meeting with Ralph Blewitt; UN resolution

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Anthony Albanese, good morning to you.


MICHAEL ROWLAND: We heard Tony Windsor saying that his guess was there was nothing of real magnitude here in the Opposition’s pursuit of the so-called slush fund scandal. Where does the Government go to from here?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’re getting on with the business of government, Michael. This morning we’ll be introducing major education legislation to pursue the Gonski reforms. Tomorrow we’ll have the legislation on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We’ve been dealing with major legislation. Last night, we sat late, allowing for further discussion on the plan to save the Murray-Darling Basin, a plan that’s eluded Australia for the previous 100 years.

So we’re getting on with the business of government.

Today I’m hosting 35 major infrastructure companies from Italy who are coming to Australia to talk about investing here because our economy is going so strong compared with the rest of the industrialised world.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: You’ve been pursuing Julie Bishop over her pursuit of the Prime Minister, asking her to put up or shut up. She has strongly defended her stance and she says she sees nothing wrong with speaking with Ralph Blewitt to get more information about what happened 17 years ago.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yesterday afternoon we saw a train wreck of a press conference from Julie Bishop. Julie Bishop yesterday morning went out on the doors – I’d be interested to see whether she’s out there this morning – and made very serious, clear and unequivocal accusations against the Prime Minister.

Yesterday afternoon, after failing to back them up in Question Time, failing to produce any evidence, she said she hadn’t said what she’d said that morning on camera in front of the press gallery outside Parliament House.

It was an extraordinary performance from Julie Bishop and we know now that not only did she meet Mr Blewitt last Friday and in her press conference yesterday afternoon it was almost like she was walking past the coffee shop and, ‘oh, Mr Blewitt, we’ll just have a little chat’, that it was a coincidental meeting where they happened to be near the same place.

We find out today in the Fairfax press that she also had a phone conversation with Mr Blewitt earlier on last week.

Now, yesterday afternoon in the press conference she said she’d only spoken to Mr Blewitt once.

So Julie Bishop has more questions to answer and Tony Abbott, I mean, for goodness sake, the bloke sits there in Question Time, says nothing for half of the last parliamentary sitting week, with two days gone out of four. He is yet to open his mouth in the House of Representatives. The mad monk has become a trappist monk. He’s taken a vow of silence, pretending that this has got nothing to do with him, as Julie Bishop just throws her mud bucket across the chamber.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, if what the Fairfax press is saying is true and Julie Bishop indeed did speak to Ralph Blewitt on the phone on Wednesday, what does this say, in your belief, about her judgment?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: This says a lot about her judgment and a lot about her honesty. If that is true – and Julie Bishop’s got to clarify exactly what the situation is – she’s yet to say exactly who was at the meeting in full. There’s a parallel with Malcolm Turnbull’s secret, clandestine meeting with Godwin Grech, attended also by the Opposition Leader in the Senate, Senator Abetz, which led to Malcolm Turnbull’s demise.

This is an extraordinary performance really from Julie Bishop but it’s an extraordinary performance from the entire Coalition who in the last week of Parliament for the year, before an election year, have had nothing to say about any policy issues and, you know, if today goes the same way as yesterday, we’ll have Julie Bishop up asking the Prime Minister what she had for breakfast in 1982, today in Question Time.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, let’s move on to another issue. Anthony Albanese, why in the face of warnings by the likes of your esteemed former foreign minister Gareth Evans that this would be a foreign policy catastrophe did Julie Gillard go to Cabinet with a move opposing greater Palestinian recognition at the UN?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I don’t talk about Cabinet and you wouldn’t expect me to break the law on your program.

The Government’s taken a position of abstention. That’s something that is supported by the Prime Minister and was unanimously supported by the caucus yesterday.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Was she facing a caucus revolt if she pressed ahead with that decision to vote no?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The Prime Minister was the person, who, in the caucus, recommended that she would be recommending a vote of abstention on this issue if it comes, before the UN General Assembly.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: But wasn’t that position after she was essentially strongarmed by the likes of Foreign Minister Bob Carr into that position?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I don’t talk about Cabinet processes. What we have here is that the Prime Minister’s position was endorsed at the caucus. The Prime Minister made a statement to the caucus as part of her Prime Minister’s report and that received the support of the caucus.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: You have a lot of people of Middle East origin in your Sydney electorate of Grayndler, Minister, as do many other certainly New South Wales MPs and ministers. How much did that drive what happened here in terms of people opposing what the Prime Minister was doing here?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: This is a matter of principle. Labor’s position has consistently been for a two-state solution to the Middle East with both Israel and Palestine being able to live side by side with secure and clearly defined borders.

We’re talking about a very close proximity and it’s pretty clear to me, as someone who has visited the region and had an interest in these issues. I’ve moved the ALP platform on the Middle East on two separate occasions at ALP national conferences. I really want to see peace in the Middle East. What that requires is direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority but it also requires the encouragement of the United Nation and key players such as the United States.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: We’re out of time. Anthony Albanese in Canberra, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to talk to you.